Since the end of last night's first debate of the general election, a lot of sports metaphors have been tossed about describing Mr. Romney's performance in the debate. He "hit it out of the park". He "came out swinging". He "scored lots of points". On and on, the punditry both from the right, who are singing Mr. Romney's praises and from the left, who are spitting mad at Romney for his "walking back everything he's been saying in the campaign", to "Where the hell was the President?". Suffice to say, there will be plenty of "post-game" analysis going on until the next debate.
Governor Romney in my view won the debate handily. I'm not speaking about who was "right or wrong", but who won the debate in technical terms. Mr. Romney was prepared, aggressive without seeming to be a bully and had his responses sharp and quick when the President countered a Romney point or when he answered a question from the moderator, Jim Lehrer from PBS. Debate experts and coaches will tell you that the point of the debate is to gain control of the narrative, and Mr. Romney succeeded in this last night. The President on the other hand looked like he would have rather been somewhere else and something else was on his mind. That's not a good recipe for our national political game of Presidential politics where many people see Mr. Romney and the President on the stage together for the first time. Much of the post debate spin and analysis praises Mr. Romney's performance and it should. He was "on his game".
The analysis that will continue after the initial come-down from the debate will provide a more focused review on what was said, and that will redound to the President's credit I believe. But, in the light of the moment, Mr. Romney looked in charge and like a "businessman" and the President came off looking professorial and somewhat detached.
Many of my liberal colleagues are grieving that the President didn't "put Romney away", or aggressively go after Mr. Romney for all of his statements last night that seemingly walked back many of his core primary positions. Indeed the President came off as once again, a "nice guy" who was polite and refused to engage in an aggressive offense or defense of his positions with the vigor that Mr. Romney did. True, Mr. Romney needed to do more and get himself into a position that shows he can handle the job that the President has. So, it's logical he come out more aggressive. What my liberal brothers and sisters need to understand is this: The President is not going to change his approach and become an attack dog. He never has been and never well. What you see with him is what you get. I think he genuinely disdains this type of thing (debating) where Mr. Romney seems to relish it. Say what you will about Mr. Romney's political performance on the stump, his robotic and seemingly non-human interaction with people outside of his class, and his plans, but the man is a good debater and seems to do very well in these situations. He was strong in the Primaries and did a good job in debates when he ran for Governor, so it is not surprising that he did well.
The President on the other hand didn't do poorly, he simply was outplayed in this debate. Mr. Obama did well in describing his Health Care program and the benefits that have already taken place for people. I think he effectively challenged Mr. Romney's lack of detail on his programs and the difficulty Mr. Romney has on squaring the circle around his tax plan. Mr. Romney's lack of specifics are problematic for him and he didn't do much to close that issue out last night. I thought the President spent more time explaining his policies and defending his actions than attacking Mr. Romney. He could have gone further in terms of challenging the "facts" Mr. Romney was bringing forth but he didn't. Time will tell if that plays to the Governor's advantage or not.
So, the first debate is over and Mr. Romney's performance will be (as it should) the talked about news item for a few days and at least until the next debate. He was strong in his performance and I believe it will tighten the race up a bit. How long that will last and will the next debate have a different outcome are the key questions of the moment. Round 1 goes to the challenger, Mitt Romney.
Tell me what you think,